There will be fewer maps for troops in the Middle East. A million children won't be vaccinated against polio, measles and diphtheria. There may not be enough government lawyers to argue before the Supreme Court. Airline flights will be reduced and most space shuttles won't fly at all.
All this, and more, is predicted if there is no budget agreement and the president orders automatic spending cuts Monday, the first day of the government's 1991 fiscal year.Congressional leaders expressed optimism Thursday that a compromise may be near, but President Bush resumed his attack on the Democrats, saying they had delayed a deal.
At a campaign breakfast in Minneapolis, Bush said the nation "faces serious automatic indiscriminate across-the-board cuts . . . because the Congress couldn't get serious about real budget reform."
Wednesday's bargaining session capped a day in which participants said Bush was moving toward defusing the prickliest issue between the two sides: whether to drop tax rates on capital gains.
"If and when the ax falls, the Democratic Congress knows that it will be held accountable," Bush told a Republican rally in Akron, Ohio.
House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, said the president's remarks could damage the talks.
"Ironically, I thought we were making progress," Mitchell said.
Bargainers reported progress at recent sessions in narrowing differences over defense cuts and reductions in domestic programs. The overall goal is to take a $500 billion bite out of the federal deficit over five years.
For 2.4 million federal employees with mortgage payments and mouths to feed, the impact could range from a few days off without pay to the devastation that faces Jeannette Gordon. She could be laid off 255 days out of a work year of 260.
Most agencies of the government expect to be forced to trim expenses by 32.4 percent. They'll do it by cutting services to the taxpayers, suspending programs, furloughing employees, putting off needed paint jobs or turning out the lights at night.
The Gramm-Rudman law doesn't much care. It requires whatever it takes to slim down federal spending by $100 billion or so in fiscal 1991. Most federal employees can be laid off for 22 days with a simple notice; after that the rules get more complicated.
The prospect facing Gordon, who works for perhaps the smallest agency in government, is unique.
"We don't have contracts we can cut and we don't have employees to lay off," says Gordon, one of two people who run the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. "My budget for 1991 is $211,000; our 32.4 percent is $68,364," she says. What remains goes into office expenses and the salary of Commissioner Warner Depuy, who won't be furloughed because he is a presidential appointee.
"That," she says with a sigh, "doesn't leave anything to hire me."To save money:
- There would be fewer maps produced by the Defense Mapping Agency, which has worked overtime to make 20 million maps for Operation Desert Shield since the Middle East crisis began. The agency's 8,000 employees are on notice they might be furloughed.
- Meat counters would be emptier as 7,344 federal meat and poultry inspectors shave weeks off their annual duties. A sequester, which is what the cutback in funds is called, "would result in the absence of inspection services and the shutting down of meat and poultry slaughter and processing plants for about 140 days," the House Appropriations Committee predicts.
- NASA would have to cancel the space station and drop or postpone all 21 shuttle flights scheduled in 1991 and 1992, according to the committee. But the agency says it has enough money left over to launch the first shuttle in the new fiscal year, on Oct. 6.
- Commercial airplanes would not be able to fly at night because the National Weather Service would close 250 stations from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Pilots need up-to-date weather information. The Federal Aviation Administration would start cutbacks with 20 percent fewer flights the first three days because controllers would be furloughed two days each in every two-week pay period.
Many important government activities are immune to cutbacks. The Postal Service, which gets its money from the business it conducts, is not affected. Social Security benefits, federal retirement and disability payments, veterans' compensation and pensions, state unemployment and many low-income entitlement programs would be untouched.